SOCIAL HOUSING DEBATE
On Thursday, I was pleased to speak in a debate on social housing, raising the concerns of my constituents regarding the lack of accountability of housing associations. Throughout my time as an MP, I have heard reports of housing associations failing to address important repairs, leaving constituents living in poor quality social housing. A key issue is that housing associations are not answerable to either MPs or the local councils, which limits oversight and prevents us from advocating for our constituents as strongly as we would like.
I am pleased that the Government has finally introduced the much-needed Social Housing Regulation Bill this Parliament, which will strengthen the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing to intervene in cases where landlords are not meeting the set standards. I will be closely following this Bill as it progresses through Parliament. You can watch a clip of my contribution to the debate here.
I also raised an important point about council tax banding for social housing. Based on house prices in the surrounding roads, many of the social housing properties in my constituency have been put in a council tax band that is too high to make their occupants eligible for fuel bill assistance, even if they are vulnerable and on very low incomes. This is something I asked the Government to look at in the clip here.
It is important to note that Tuesday 14th June marks five years since the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower. This tragic event highlighted chronic failures in building control and regulations. I welcome the work the Government has done to strengthen the building safety system in this country as a response. However more must now be done to tackle the wider issues around the poor quality and inadequate supply of social housing. You can read a full transcript of the debate here.
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY STRIKES
Earlier this week, the RMT union, which represents rail workers, announced three days of planned strike action across the rail network on 21st June, 23rd June and 25th June. On 21st June, the London underground will also be impacted. Around 2,100 members of staff across South Western Railway (SWR) will be participating in the strike, which concerns disputes over pay and working conditions. SWR have warned that there will be severe disruption across its network. They will be publishing a reduced timetable for the affected period in due course.
Whilst I am pleased that SWR will be publishing this timetable in advance, it is unacceptable that individuals may miss work, school or even medical appointments due to a dispute outside of their control. It is crucial that both SWR and the RMT Union get back to the negotiating table. An urgent solution must be found that will not see ordinary people unfairly punished over an industrial conflict
I spoke to Times Radio to express my disappointment over strike action and my concern for the impact this disruption will have on constituents. You can listen to a clip of my interview here.
SUICIDE RISK ASSESSMENT CAMPAIGN UPDATE
On Wednesday, I spoke in Parliament regarding my campaign with constituent Philip Pirie on suicide risk assessment. I again raised our open letter, which you can read here, which calls for the Government to change guidance on binary risk assessment tools which seek to make predictions on the likelihood of an individual taking their own life.
I am pleased to say that Philip is now in regular contact with the Department of Health and Social Care, who are who are working on a review of the 2012 Suicide Risk Prevention Strategy. I thank Minister Gillian Keegan for agreeing to take a look at this issue, and I look forward to continuing to campaign to save lives. You can watch a clip of my contribution to the debate here.
SURVEY ON CANCELLED FLIGHTS
Has your flight been cancelled this year? Next Tuesday, the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee will be asking airline leaders why so many people have had their flights delayed or cancelled. They will be focussing on enforcement of consumer rights and labour market shortages. In advance of the committee hearing on Tuesday, they have set up a public survey you may way to take part in. As the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for business, I am looking forward to seeing the results. The link to the survey is here.
SOUTHWEST LONDON ST GEORGE'S ANNUAL PUBLIC MEETING
SW London St George's Mental Health NHS Trust invites residents to its Annual Public Meeting, which will be held online on Thursday 21 July, from 5:30pm – 7.30pm (login from 5:00pm). They will be "reflecting on our achievements and challenges from the past 12 months with updates from our Executive Team, before taking an in depth look at the modern new facilities we are developing across South West London." They will be joined by guest speakers, including Dr Jacqui Dyer MBE, President of the Mental Health Foundation, as well as members of staff and service users to understand more about the new environments being developed, their role in breaking stigma and the wider impact they will have for the communities they serve. The final part of the meeting will be a Q&A session with their Executive Team.
BARNES FILM FESTIVAL
The Barnes Film Festival is now preparing for its seventh festival from 16th-22nd June 2022. The festival showcases filmmaking talent from across the UK together with award-winning films from around the world. As well as their Filmmaking Competition, the Festival will host inspiring film events for all, including workshops, discussions, screenings and gatherings, with leading figures from the film, documentary and animation industries.
I am delighted to see the festival return in person once again, bringing the community together through the arts. I look forward to seeing the superb array of talent on display. You can see the full schedule and book tickets here.
WETLANDS CENTRE RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS
Are you interested in spending more time volunteering in nature? Perhaps you already love visiting London Wetland Centre and want to get more involved? WWT will be running two prospective Volunteers’ sessions, online, over the next month. These are informal sessions where anyone interested in volunteering can join via Teams to find out more. You will hear a general overview of the work they do, and then have the opportunity to spend time with a few of their departments to learn more.
They will have two sessions, both on Teams:
Tuesday 28th June 11-12pm Click here to join the meeting
Tuesday 5th July 6-7pm Click here to join the meeting
There is no need to pre-register for the sessions, but please join promptly at the start of the session.
HEALTHWATCH RICHMOND SURVEY
Healthwatch Richmond has written to me to say they are working on a project with Public Health Richmond aimed at improving Healthy Living Services in the borough. They are doing a survey to identify barriers to maintaining healthy lifestyle. Data collection is taking place through surveys (phone, paper, and online) as well as face-to-face engagement. You can find further information about the project, as well as copy and assets for communications here. COUNCIL WINS £3M TO TACKLE CLIMATE EMERGENCY
Richmond Council is set to receive further funding from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to assist in achieving its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. The national Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme provides grants for public sector bodies to fund heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency measures. Having previously been awarded funding through the scheme in 2021, the new funding will bring the total amount of funding received by Richmond Council to £3.53 million.
The funding will enable the Council to continue delivering its strategy to decarbonise its own estate, as set out in the borough’s Climate Action Plan. Measures will include the replacement of boilers at the end of their useful life with low carbon heat replacements, roof and wall insulation, LED lighting replacement and the installation of solar PV panels.
Richmond Council recently announced an overall decrease of 62.7% in the Council's own emissions since 2017/18 as well as a reduction of 40.7% in total carbon emissions from the borough. This is an amazing achievement, and I look forward to hearing about the continuation of this work.
ACTIVITY STATION RECEIVES THE QUEENS AWARD FOR VOLUNTARY SERVICES
Local organisation Activity Station has received The Queens Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK. The Award aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on the anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation, June 2nd. Activity Station (AS) provides children & young adults with disabilities access to a range of fun and inclusive activities and social events in Barnes & the London Borough of Richmond.
Over the past 8 years, AS have broadened their range of activities to include; singing, drumming, cookery, drama, music, dance, art, pottery, sports camps, discos and days out. They also hold exclusive events that all the family can enjoy from sensory cinema days to Christmas pantos.
From the first lockdown in April 2020, AS was the first charity in their sector to set up their activities virtually, providing 10 different activity sessions each week. AS ensured that all users had online access to fun and social activities with continual support during and post pandemic. For many who could not leave their care homes or family homes, these virtual sessions provided a focus to their day, connection with friends as well as stimulating activities.
Congratulations to everyone at AS for this well deserved recognition.
RENOVATIONS AT KINGSTON ROAD RECREATION GROUND
My north Kingston constituents will be pleased to learn about the recently announced revamp of Kingston Road Rec. A Kingston neighbourhood committee has agreed to invest more than £172,000 in a project to reopen one of its pavilions. Using money from the Community Infrastructure Levy placed on developers in the borough, the Kingston & North Kingston Neighbourhood Committee agreed funding this week to renovate a derelict building in the recreation ground so it can be used as a boxing gym. The project is led by boxing club owner Ben Young and the ‘Friends of Kingston Road Recreation Ground’ group. They hope it will take six to nine months to complete, with a future funding application expected to reopen the second smaller pavilion in the rec. The renovation of the rec’s playground is also currently underway and follows the installation of a perimeter running track last year. In the coming months, gym equipment will be added around the track along with five-a-side football goals in the middle. Although the rec itself is outside my constituency I'm sure many of my constituents will make good use of the new facilities.
KINGSTON POLICE UPDATE
Kingston Safer Neighbourhood Teams and the Town Centre Team have written to say they have been continuing with plain clothes and high visibility Operations across the wards. These have included weapon sweeps, joint operations with colleagues in the British Transport Police targeting County Lines, and numerous crime prevention events. Burglary remains a priority for they are working closely with intelligence teams to target individuals who travel to the Borough to commit crime. You can see lots more information about their work and how to engage with them in their latest bulletin here.